Friday, June 28, 2013

#565 - Milt Wilcox

OK, so I did this rather lengthy write-up and then it got erased. Ooh, that blows. And July is going to be a pretty dry month anyway between holidays and vacation and tons of work so I was sort of doubly pissed. Venting over. Here is Milt Wilcox, posing at home in Cleveland in a shot that looks suspiciously like a wider angle one of his ’73 card so it was probably taken in ’72. I always thought Milt was a bit of a cat with his multiple lives and when he was delivering those steady seasons for Detroit in the early Eighties I was pretty surprised it was the same guy who pitched for the Reds. Animal references are pretty appropriate for Milt since one of his first off-season pastimes was raising chinchillas and then he got into things in a big way with a whole other animal after he was done. ’73 was pretty tough for Milt. Though he began the season 3-0 and finished with a pretty good record given the team for which he pitched, his ERA was always fat and he was constantly fighting ailments. First he had strep and then a bad elbow, which forced him to miss about three weeks. Then in July he screwed up his ankle and missed nearly a month. He eventually got so eager for an edge to override his problems that he took some spitter lessons from master Gaylord Perry but that didn’t help either. It would be his final season as a starter for a long time and it must have felt like his Series appearance with Cincinnati was crazy far back. But Milt would return to the post-season years later in a big way.

Milt Wilcox was born in Hawaii – I am pretty sure he’s the only AL guy from that state in the set – and relocated as a young kid to Oklahoma where his dad got work in the oil fields. The word was that Milt was a fourth-generation Hawaiian since his great-grandfather was a Danish sailor who jumped ship on the islands, married a native, and settled down. In Oklahoma Milt would play ball and in high school he was a pitcher/outfielder whose .399 average and 10-1 record got him drafted and signed in the second round of ’68 by the Reds. That summer he put up excellent numbers in both Rookie and A ball (that he lost five games with that ERA doesn’t speak much for those teams’ offense). In ’69 his ERA shot up in a season at the higher level truncated because of injury and the beginning of his military hitch. But after some nice work in the Instructional League and winter ball he got pulled up to Triple A where his effective bounce included five shutouts, one a no-hitter. That September he made his debut in Cincinnati when he was called up to replace fellow rookie Wayne Simpson, who’d been injured. In his second game and first start he threw a shutout and in his short time he made enough of an impression to be included on the post-season roster. Good thing too, because he won the pennant clincher against Pittsburgh with three innings of one-hit ball during which he struck out four consecutive batters in the heart of the Pirates order. His follow-up year wasn’t so good, though. Making the roster despite a tough spring training, Milt experienced shoulder issues early on and pitched sparingly through early June when he was returned to Triple A. There he improved things quickly – three more shutouts – before returning to Cincy in late August, working enough to pull his ERA down about a run. After the season he was sent to Cleveland for outfielder Ted Uhlaender.

In shades of his rookie season, Wilcox threw a shutout in his first start for the Tribe. And he would throw very good ball despite missing time for his reserve hitch and sporadic shoulder pain. By early June he had an ERA under 2.00 but poor run support had his record at 6-4. Then things got worse as he went on a losing streak of seven straight though he maintained a pretty good ERA. He missed more time to his shoulder and elbow being hurt and finished with a nasty record even though his ERA was at league average. After his challenging ’73 he spent ’74 pitching out of the bullpen where his ERA improved, but not by much. After finishing that year 2-2 with a 4.67 ERA and four saves in 41 games, he was sent to the Cubs for Brock Davis and Dave LaRoche. By then Milt’s main problem was tendinitis in his pitching elbow and ’75 would be pretty much a lost year, split between Triple A – 4-3 with a 4.31 ERA in eight starts – and Chicago, where he was 0-1 with a 5.63 ERA in 25 relief games. The best development that year was that he picked up a new pitch, a split-finger, from roving minor league pitching coach Fred Martin. Until then Milt had been a power guy with a fastball, hard slider, and an occasional curve. The forkball and a palmball he picked up later put a bunch less stress on his arm and would do wonders for him down the line. The beginning of that was in ’76 when after a few games back in Triple A Milt was loaned to the Detroit organization for whom he had a pretty good year back in the rotation, going 6-7 with a 3.81 ERA. The Tigers decided to keep him in a sale and in ’77 Milt went 9-4 with a 2.44 ERA in his 14 starts. As luck would have it the Detroit pitching staff was hobbled by injuries, mainly to Mark Fidrych and Vern Ruhle, and Milt was called up that June.

Wilcox was pulled up to replace Vern Ruhle and so was a spot starter and swing guy the rest of the way. His first game up he threw nearly seven innings in relief, giving up two runs and striking out nine. By the end of August he was a surprising 6-0 and he finished the year 6-2 with a 3.64 ERA and almost no pain in his 20 games. He then joined the rotation and the next six seasons he went a combined 73-62 with a 3.89 ERA, finishing 62 of his starts. His best season during that time was probably the strike year of ’81 when he was 12-9 with a 3.03 ERA. Milt was able to revive his fastball by ’78 and actually rehabilitated his elbow through bowling. But continued wear both on the shoulder and elbow required a pretty steady diet of cortisone shots, no season moreso that ’84, which would turn out to be his best year. Milt took a grin-and-bear-it attitude in going 17-8 to be the division-winner’s third big gun behind Jack Morris and Dan Petry. Milt was especially hot down the stretch, going 9-2 after the All-Star break. On his return to the post-season after 14 years he again got the pennant win against KC, hurling a shutout eight innings. He also had an excellent start and win against San Diego in the Series and ironically finished his biggest year with no complete games. He also pretty much finished his arm as the wear and cortisone took their toll. After going 1-3 in only eight starts in ’85, Milt finished a nasty 0-8 with Seattle in ’86 and was done. He went 119-113 with a 4.07 ERA, 73 complete games, ten shutouts and six saves. In the minors he was 53-39 with a 2.88 ERA and in the post-season he went 3-1 with a 1.42 ERA in five games and a strikeout an inning.

In ’81 while in the midst of his Detroit years Wilcox opened a baseball school, which he continued doing for a bunch of years. He took some time out to play in the Senior League both of its seasons – he went 12-3 in the initial one. By the late Nineties he began attending competitive dog skill shows and by 2005 he founded his own company, Airdogs, which basically is a traveling show of competitive dog jumping that he has franchised out to a bunch of locations. It has its own website – linked to here – and Milt seems like a big happy personality in his involvement, judging by this interview.

The star bullets and cartoon were covered above. I believe his military commitment was finished in ’75. In “The Curse of...” Milt gets a mention as an aside. In a game against Texas Milt was racing to cover first on a grounder to John Ellis by Lenny Randle. Randle basically steamrolled Milt and Ellis objected by popping Randle in the face three times, knocking Lenny out. Ouch! A great star bullet for Milt down the road was the perfect game he carried until the 27th batter in a game against Chicago in ’83. That batter, Jerry Hairston, lined a clean single off Milt with two out in the top of the ninth.

Greg Luzinski hit – or didn’t – against Milt in the near-perfect game but that doesn’t help here:

1. Wilcox and Oscar Gamble ’73 to ’74 Indians;
2. Gamble and Mike Ryan ’70 to ’72 Phillies.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

#564 - Mike Ryan

Like Jack Aker of two posts ago, Mike Ryan gets his final card pictured in a uniform he would not be in in 1974. In January of that year he was traded to the Pirates for Jackie Hernandez, who is ironically the subject for the next post. Mike’s at bat totals had been moving south since ’70 and in ’73 with new guy Bob Boone behind the plate nearly all the time, Mike’s total dropped below 100, though he did put up his best average in Philly, with his .232. Mike’s specialty was defense and he managed to build a pretty long career despite finishing with an average below .200. Here he poses at Shea with an unusually dark bat. I have one that exact color and it’s made out of bamboo, which I think is pretty cool. I don’t think they were using bamboo back then in bats. If they were, maybe that helped explain Mike’s average.

Mike Ryan grew up in Haverhill, Massachusetts, not terribly far from the New Hampshire border. In high school he played baseball but the Catholic school he attended had no athletic teams so Mike played sandlot ball. In ’60 he was part of an all-area team that played in a tournament held at Yankee Stadium and it was there Mike was discovered, signing late that year with his home-state Sox. The following year he hit only .185 in D ball but fielded quite well. He remained at that level in ’62, led his league in both putouts and assists, and boosted his numbers pretty considerably to .215/10/49 with a .353 OBA, though he did also K a ton. The next two years were spent in Double A where he continued his excellent defense and boosted his numbers somewhat. In ’63 he had a .229/10/45 year though with 106 K’s in just 388 at bats; in ’64 it was .248/5/34 and though his power numbers fell he also more than halved his strikeouts. He then got called up to Boston in October and had a great debut, knocking in and scoring a couple runs. Unfortunately on one of his scores, he tore a ligament in his knee which prompted a slow recovery the following year. He did begin the season on the Sox roster but after not hitting crazy well got moved to Triple A where he hit .236 with 19 RBI’s in 161 at bats before returning to Boston.

In ’66 Ryan got the starting nod and turned in some pretty good defense, though he gave up a ton of steals. He also raised his average a bunch though that wasn’t saying too much. In ’67 the Sox brought in Dick Williams and he and Mike didn’t see eye-to-eye on pitch selection all the time. So while Mike split games pretty evenly with Bob Tillman and Gerry Moses, when the Sox picked up Elston Howard late in the year, Mike got to watch the rest of The Impossible Dream season from the bench. He improved significantly on his runners caught that year and managed to get a couple Series at bats. After the season he was traded to Philadelphia for Gene Oliver and Dick Ellsworth. That first season of ’68 he split time behind the plate with Clay Dalrymple and while his offense was nasty bad he picked off a pretty nice 58% of the runners who took off on him. In ’69 Clay got sent to Baltimore, leaving Mike the starting catcher role and he turned in his biggest offensive year with 12 homers and 44 RBI’s. Prior to the ’70 season the Phillies acquired Tim McCarver as part of the Curt Flood/Dick Allen deal and McCarver was named starting catcher. But he got hurt in an early game against the Giants, breaking his hand on a foul ball. Ryan was back in the starting role, but it lasted less than a game as he got steamrolled at the plate by Willie McCovey and broke a finger. The Phillies would get so desperate for catching help later that season they had to pull Doc Edwards out of retirement. For ’71 McCarver was back and Mike played behind him that year, John Bateman in ’72, and Boone in ’73, getting not too many at bats. He finished things up with batting .100 in only 30 at bats behind Manny Sanguillen and retired at the end of the ’74 season. Mike had a .193 average with 28 homers and 161 RBI’s for his career and went o for two in his Series at bats. He had a .991 fielding average and caught 44% of the guys that tried to run on him, way better than league average.

Like Hal McRae Ryan moved directly into coaching. He managed in the Pitssburgh system from ’75 to ’76 and then returned to the Philadelphia one for many years, managing (’77-’78); coaching in the minors (’79); and coaching in Philly (’80-’95). His managing record was 236-316. He retired after his Philadelphia coaching days ended and lives in New Hampshire.

Not surprisingly Mike’s star bullets are all defense. Nicknamed “Irish” he also likes antiques according to a cartoon on another one of his cards. According to Mike’s SABR bio, he picked those two up from his wife.

I forgot all about this guy while figuring how to make this one short:

1. Ryan and Cookie Rojas ’69 Phillies;
2. Rojas and Hal McRae ’73 to ’77 Royals.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

#563 - Hal McRae

In another batting cage shot at Oakland Hal McRae shows off some of the meanest muttonchops in the set. Hal’s pretty serious here, an expression that would define his cards for a while after his big smile on his rookie one. Then for his ’76 card he got super happy which he more-or-less maintained the duration of his career. Hal is in the midst of his first of many seasons in Kansas City and while the Reds made some awfully good trades the first half of the Seventies, sending this guy to KC sure wasn’t one of them. That wasn’t apparent right off the bat though. Initially brought in to take over third base if Paul Schaal’s bat didn’t come around – another guy would take over that role - Hal had some problems in the new league and after spending most of the early part of the season platooning in right field, he was hitting only .151 with four doubles and eleven RBI’s by June 17th. He then began splitting time between right and DH and – shades of things to come – hit .283 with 14 doubles, 39 RBI’s and a .360 OBA in his final 212 at bats. The turnaround was enabled by work with hitting coach Charlie Lau who was also just starting to work his magic with KC. Between the two of them and some other guys – including that new third baseman – the Royals would go on to many years of success.

Hal McRae grew up in Avon Park, Florida, and in high school there played the big three sports as well as baseball for a semi-pro team on the weekends. The Giants apparently attempted to sign him when he graduated but Hal opted to go to Florida A&M, also apparently at the urging of his parents since the family was not well off and Hal received a scholarship. There he continued to play both infield and outfield and had some considerable power as well as excellent speed. After hitting .441 and .385 at A&M his first two years, he was drafted by Cincinnati in ’65, when Hal was 19 and had just finished his sophomore season (though there are some attestations that he was graduated by then). That summer he didn’t do too much in a few games in A ball in Tampa. The next year at that level he did considerably better with a .287/11/56 season in 394 at bats that saw him spend pretty much all his time at second base. He then put up similar numbers - .267/16/59 – in a ’67 split between Double A and Triple A, moving up to the higher level with his manager that year, Don Zimmer. Then a big ’68 in Triple A in which he hit .295 with 16 homers, eleven triples, 15 stolen bases, and 65 RBI’s got him up to Cincinnati for a July debut that lasted about a month. There he had a bit of a rough time at second but the real pain was felt after the season ended when during winter ball he got in a car crash that nearly wrecked his ankle. That injury and its aftermath went a long way in defining the rest of his career: Hal’s speed was pretty much gone as would be – for the most part – his time in the infield and he would have to become an extra-base hitter to stick; his ’69 season was wrecked as his rehab took forever; and Reds manager Dave Bristol tore him a new one by chewing him out over his rehab time, which would be a pivotal instance in turning Hal into an aggressive player and an in-your-face motivator. He had a real good run in the late Fall Instructional League that year and that would end his time in the minors.

In 1970 Cincinnati was awash with a bunch of good young players and two of them, both rookies, would share time in left field that season. Of the two Bernie Carbo, the lefty, would get about double the at bats that Hal McRae, the righty, got, and together they formed a pretty good combo, with 91 RBI’s between them. Hal didn’t do too hot in the playoffs, but he got three starts in the Series against Baltimore and hit .455 with three RBI’s. Then prior to the ’71 season regular center fielder Bobby Tolan got hurt and the plan was to move Pete Rose from right to center and have Hal take over Pete’s spot. But after doing some training camp work in center, Hal began the season there, but he had a tough time replicating Tolan’s numbers and a month into the season the Reds picked up George Foster to take over. Meantime Hal got moved back to the platoon gig with Carbo but with Bernie having a nasty bad sophomore season, Hal got a bunch more at bats than in ’70. His doubles total shot up and he added a few points to his average. In ’72 Tolan returned, Rose moved to left, and new acquisition Cesar Geronimo pretty much split time in right with Foster. That left Hal in a utility role and he got as many starts at third as anywhere. He put up nearly as many RBI’s in less than a third as many at bats in part due to his four pinch homers, one a grand slam. After the season he and former rookie pitching phenom Wayne Simpson were sent to KC for Richie Schienblum and Roger Nelson.

In ’74 Jim Wohlford pretty much took over Lou Piniella’s position in left (Lou had gone to NY) and new guy Vada Pinson took over right so McRae spent most of his time at DH. Good thing, too, because he upped his average to .310, his doubles to 36, and his RBI’s to 88. That season cemented his status as a regular somewhere and in ’75 between the acquisition of Harmon Killebrew and the breaking down of Pinson, Hal became the regular guy in left while Wohlford split time in right with the emerging Al Cowens. Hal continued with the excellent offense, posting a .306/5/71 season with 38 doubles while earning his first All-Star nod. In ’76 he repeated that honor by upping things to .332/8/73 with 34 doubles and an AL-leading .407 OBA in a season somewhat marred by a contentious batting title chase with teammate George Brett. He continued to do some work in left while mainly concentrating on DH that year which he would continue the next couple seasons. In ’77 the average came in but the power got amped up with a .298/21/92 season with an MLB-leading 54 doubles. Prior to the ’78 season Hal injured his right shoulder twice in another career-defining injury. No more playing in the field as his arm was shot. After a discounted .273/16/72 season in ’78, Hal got the shoulder operated on after the season and after a pretty good start to the '79 season was hitting a now-uncustomary .241 in early June. He pulled himself from the line-up, went on the DL, and did some rehab. It must have worked because after he returned in August he hit .335 with six homers, 16 doubles, and 44 RBI’s in the season’s remaining 194 at bats. After a continued bounce in the Series year of ’80 with a .297/14/83 season Hal had an off year in the strike season of ’81. He came back big in ’82 when he moved to the clean-up spot with a .308 average, 27 homers, and MLB-leading 46 doubles and 133 RBI’s. Those numbers got him back to the All-Star game and won him a Silver Slugger. In ’83 he put up more representational numbers with a .311/12/82 season in his last full year. Injuries would cut back his numbers the next three seasons though he hit .303 in ’84 and knocked in 70 runs – in just 320 at bats – in ’85. That year he finally won a Series title. In ’86 he started to do the big fade and in ’87 he got in a few games – hitting .313 – as a player/coach. He was released as a player that June and finished with a .290 average on 2,091 hits with 484 doubles, 191 homers, and 1,097 RBI’s. He hit over 30 doubles for ten straight seasons outside the strike one. In the post-season he hit .294 with a homer and 15 RBI’s in 48 games.

McRae didn’t wander too far after his playing career ended and from ’88 to ’89 he was a hitting coach in the Pirates chain. He then coached for Montreal in ’90 before returning to KC as its manager from ’91 to ’94, three of those years with a winning record. He then coached for Cincinnati (’95-’96) and Philadelphia (’97-2000) before coaching and then managing Tampa Bay for two pretty miserable seasons (2001-’02). He was then moved up as assistant GM of the franchise (’03-’04) before taking on the hitting coach role in St. Louis from ’05 to ’09. He then retired back to Bradenton, Florida.

I am almost positive Hal has the first cartoon in this set referencing ballet. That’s some average from that third bullet. The Reds should have known there’d be lots more good stuff coming out of that bat. Hal’s son Brian was a first round pick by KC in ’85 and went on to have a pretty decent career himself (.261 with over 100 homers and nearly 200 stolen bases in ten seasons up top). The first two-thirds of Hal’s given name are nearly identical to one of the leads in “Chariots of Fire.”

One of these guys is actualy coming up pretty soon:

1. McRae and Milt Wilcox ’70 to ’71 Reds;
2. Wilcox and John Ellis ’73 to ’74 Indians;
3. Ellis and Jack Aker ’69 to ’72 Yankees.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

#562 - Jack Aker

Jack Aker gets his final card in a Cubs uniform at Candlestick even though well before this card came out he’d moved on to Atlanta. Jack looks pretty stoic even though his ’73 numbers represented a discount to his ’72 ones, which were quite good. ’73 started equally as well and by early June Jack was 2-4 with ten saves and a 2.16 ERA. But the rest of the way as Chicago’s fortunes faded he was 2-1 with only two saves and a 6.23 ERA. In those 28 games of his the Cubbies were 5-23 so it is pretty understandable that the team placed him on waivers after the season. Jack had been toting around a bad back for a few years by then and it was supposedly aggravated in a May fight with Bobby Bonds of the Giants. Jack looks like good manager material in this shot and that is exactly what he would be in a couple seasons so even though he’s near the end of his pitching career, he still had a lot of baseball left.

Jack Aker’s family had come to California as Okies fleeing the Dust Bowl in the early Thirties. His dad then supported the family as basically a premium migrant worker in cotton fields (which he continued to do through 1990, when he was 85). Jack went to Mount Whitney High in Visalia where he was an all-area halfback and pitcher/outfielder. Graduating in ’58 he then went to nearby College of the Sequoias (James Wohlford from this set went there as well) where he continued his dual role for a year until he was signed by Kansas City for a pretty fat bonus. The A’s were looking for a speedy outfielder and in D ball that summer Jack led his league with 21 stolen bases but after hitting only .208 with zero power it was decided to move him to the mound. He pitched his first season for a C team back home in Visalia and went 8-14 with a 4.47 ERA in the rotation. He improved to 13-12 in B ball the next year and then was 12-14 in Double A in ’62 but he kept the high ERA’s. Jack was a side-armed curveballer who tended to give up a few too many homers. But in ’63 he went a combined 10-4 with a 2.32 ERA after being moved to the pen in a season split between A and Triple A ball (he pitched well at both levels). He then spent nearly all of ’64 in Triple A going 3-4 with a 2.63 ERA, most of that after a May stint in KC that didn’t go too well. Then after a ’65 start in Triple A that produced a 6-3 record and a 1.36 ERA in 35 games he was pulled back to Kansas City in late July for good.

Aker’s late stint for the A’s in ’65 began well enough, then got ugly, and then settled down in September to produce numbers that included three saves and a pretty good ERA. In ’66 Jack ramped things up condiderably when his excellent record and ERA were joined by MLB-leading 57 games finished and 32 saves to win that year’s Fireman of the Year award. He also became the team rep late that season in a role that would haunt his relationship with the team going forward. His pitching didn’t help either. After getting a big bonus for his ’66 season Jack pretty much reversed his numbers in ’67 and got knocked around pretty good in a brawl against Detroit. Player rep-wise he was involved in a couple big incidents. In July after pitcher Lew Krausse was fined by owner Charlie O Finley for “conduct unbecoming to baseball” (the players were told it was because Krausse drank too much on a flight; not until years later was it revealed that he also emptied a six shooter in a hotel across the street after a bad game), the players demanded a meeting with Finley that he agreed to have. It went for over eleven hours in part because Jack didn’t show up for the 7:00 pm meeting until 2:30 am since he was out on the town. Finley claimed that Jack said at the meeting that then-manager Al Dark knew of a letter the players had written calling Finley abusive (Jack pretty quickly denied that). After the meeting Dark was fired; first baseman Ken Harrelson – apparently calling Finley a “menace to baseball” – was cut; and Krausse demanded to be traded. Jack hooked up with Marvin Miller and – pushed by AL president Joe Cronin – they had a meeting with Charley O at which most things were ironed out. That didn’t stop both Jack and ’66 phenom Jim Nash from echoing Krausse’s sentiments in late September to be traded away also. But Jack was back in ’68 for another not-great season – he would get eleven saves that year after his twelve in ’67 – and another brawl with Detroit. It was the team’s first year in Oakland and Jack would be on the move again after the season, going to the new Seattle Pilots in the expansion draft.

Aker got the first-ever save in Pilots history in ’69 but not too much else went right in Seattle or that season until a May trade for pitcher Fred Talbot took him to the Yankees. For NY Jack’s season turned completely around as he put up numbers reminiscent of his big ’66 season, including eleven saves (he had 14 total that year). He then matched his NY ERA in ’70 with another great record and 16 saves. In ’71 he posted another excellent ERA though his innings came in as he shared closer time with Lindy McDaniel, recording only four saves. Then in ’72 after his innings continued to decline – only four games through mid-May – he was sent to the Cubs as the player to be named later in the deal that got the Yankees Johnny Callison. As with NY in ’69 Jack had a big revival in Chicago, taking over as closer, and recording 17 saves the rest of the way. After his poor finish to the ’73 season he was placed on waivers and immediately claimed by Atlanta. His stay there was sort of inconclusive – 0-1 with zero saves in 17 games and a 3.78 ERA – and in June he was sold to the Mets to replace Craig Swan, a rookie who was injured. Jack threw pretty well for the Mets the rest of the way, posting a 2-1 record with a 3.48 ERA and two saves in 24 games. But his back was a mess and he spent two weeks on the DL toward the end of the season. He was released as a player that winter and finished his career with a 47-45 record, 3.28 ERA, and 123 saves in his 495 games. He wasn’t much of a hitter so good call those years back by Kansas City.

Despite the late ’74 release, the Mets were big fans of Aker and beginning in ’75 - of course in Visalia - he spent the next eight seasons as a manager in the NY system, twice winning his league’s manager of the year award. He moved to the Cleveland system as a coach in ’83 and then resumed managing in ’84 and ’85. That second season he was called up to Cleveland to be its pitching coach after the staff was pretty much overhauled that summer. He stuck with the Tribe through part of the ’87 season when another overhaul cleared the deck and Jack was reassigned as a director of player development and scout. He did that through ’88 and then founded his own baseball academy in Arizona, which he ran for about twenty years. About a third of the way through that run he also began going to various Native American reservations in the area and the Northwest where he volunteered to teach the kids ball which he continued doing until pretty recently. He is now mostly retired and apparently living in New Jersey. His record as manager was quite good at 706-674.

Jack’s second star bullet is more qualitative than quantitative. He and McDaniel both had four saves to lead the team – scary – but Lindy closed more games. Jack did  have a better ERA by about two-and-a-half runs. That cartoon would be pretty sensitive these days; Jack was mostly Native American himself, hence the nickname. Looking through his cards there is not one on which he has even the hint of a smile though the couple comments on the Ultimate Mets Database site by his former players indicate he was a great manager. In “Ball Four” the most high-profile mention of Jack by Jim Bouton is that Jack had taken to using chewing tobacco shortly before his Pilots season but was so unschooled in managing it that he always had brown stains on his uniform.

These guys played together and I am going to go out on a limb and say Jack’s half season was enough:

1. Aker and Ed Kranepool ’74 Mets.

Monday, June 24, 2013

#561 - Ed Kranepool

From action shot to action shot, here we get Ed Kranepool looking like he just speared a liner and is looking to double a runner off second. Ed is playing in front of a packed house. It is inviting to call this a post-season game given the crowd but at Shea Ed only played left field when he was in the field at all. ’73 would set the tone of Ed’s career the next few seasons. Continuing to platoon at first – mostly with John Milner – he also got a bunch of starts in left field for the first time, primarily due to an injury to regular starter Cleon Jones. His RBI numbers were better than the prior year but most of his other offensive stats fell. He only went 2 for 17 as a pinch hitter that year but he would get considerably better in that role down the road.

Ed Kranepool was not yet born when his dad died in WW II. A local Little League coach took him under his wing and Ed grew up playing on a bunch of local all-star and all-area teams. At James Monroe High School in The Bronx he was a big hoops star – about 24 ppg for his career – and hit nine homers his senior year in leading his team to the NYC championships. His total of 21 for his career broke a school record set by Hank Greenberg. That year was ’62 which also happened to be the initial season for the Mets. They were looking for a local athlete to draw fans and Ed was their boy. After an aggressive recruitment they signed him right after graduation and sent him to Triple A Syracuse where he hit .229 with no power his first few games. He was moved down to A ball - .278 in seven games – and finally D ball, where he remembered his stroke and hit .351 with 18 RBI’s in 77 at bats. That September, at 17, he made his debut for NY and in his second game he recorded his first hit, a double. He shared a rookie card in ’63 with Tony Oliva and Max Alvis and began the year on the NY roster, hitting .300 through April when he played primarily first base. He was then moved to right field and though he got a bunch of starts there, his offense went south so that by early July he was under .200 and sent to Triple A Buffalo. There he hit .310 with 33 RBI’s in 53 games before he returned to the Mets where he added a few points to his numbers. He then began ’64 at Buffalo after being hurt in spring training – he hit .352 in twenty games - but was up by late May and most of that time was the starting first baseman. From then on it was – mostly – all majors.

In ’65 Ed was given the starting nod at first and he came out of the gate strong, his average above .400 in early May. That start got him selected to his only All-Star game and he was still around .300 at game time. His average faded the rest of the way and his homer total didn’t move from the prior year despite 100 more at bats. By then it was decided Ed probably wasn’t the next Mickey Mantle and in ’66 he began to be platooned at first. Because Ed was the lefty side of the duo he got the most starting time at first, but his at bats would go on a downward trend. In ’66 he split time with Dick Stuart and Jim Hickman and hit 16 homers, his best for a season. In ’67 it was he, Ron Swoboda, and Bob Johnson and Ed put up his best average to date with a .269. In ’68 Gil Hodges was named Mets manager and though he generally got along with just about all his players, there was some tension between Ed and him. That year Ed’s starts fell below 100 for the first time as he shared time with Greg Goossen, Art Shamsky, and JC Martin. His numbers tanked that year but a good spring in ’69 had him pretty much solo at first – Cleon Jones got a few starts there – until a mid-season acquisition of Donn Clendenon had them split time there the rest of the way. Ed’s average stayed pretty low but his power numbers were his best to date when drawn out to a full season. He’d had a big hit in an important series against the Cubs and got all the starts in the playoff sweep of Atlanta since the Braves threw all righties. But against the Orioles in the Series he only got into one game as Clendenon went on his offensive tear against the O’s lefty starters.

In 1970 Kranepool was named team player rep and also held out in spring training. He got his raise but either because of that, his rep status (never a good career move), or that with him, Art Shamsky, and Mike Jorgenssen, the Mets had three lefty first basemen, Ed got barely any at bats through late June and most of those were in the pinch. He was sent to Triple A where he had a .310/7/45 season in only 174 at bats before being recalled and hit over .300 the rest of the way as a pinch hitter. Clendenon had a monster offensive year in ’70 but by ’71 both he and Shamsky were slowing down considerably and so Ed was back as the de facto starter at first despite the adding of rookie John Milner to the roster. Ed had probably his best offensive year as his average bounced a bunch and his power numbers were up there with his best. In ’72 the Mets acquired Willie Mays and Ed split time at first with him and Cleon Jones, another outfielder whose knees needed a rest. In ’73 Milner got most of the starts at first and in ’74 as Ed’s at bats continued to decline, he began his new added role as a pinch hitter deluxe. He went 17 for 35 including one run where he had five straight pinch hits. Then in ’75 despite the addition of two more first baseman in Joe Torre and Dave Kingman, Ed’s starts there increased a bunch as both Kingman and Milner concentrated on the outfield. His .323/4/43 with 16 doubles came in 325 at bats and was propelled in part by another excellent pinch-hitting season in which he hit .400 in that role. In ’76 Torre’s role contracted considerably as he was readied to step into a managerial role and Ed ramped his at bats to north of 400 as he started at both first and in left field. That year he hit .292 with ten homers and 49 RBI’s and hit .364 in the pinch. In ’77 his time at first was roughly halved as he also did time in right and left, but though his at bats declined he kept his stats up with a .281/10/40 season with 17 doubles in 281 at bats, led by a .414 pinch hitting average. That season the Mets were awful, a status they would retain throughout the rest of Ed’s career. By ’78 he was almost exclusively a pinch hitter. That year he hit only .210 in his 81 at bats (.280 in the pinch). He followed that with a ’79 in which he hit .232 but only .184 in his pinch-hitting role. That was it for Ed as he retired after nearly two decades with NY. He finished with a .261 average with 118 homers and 614 RBI’s and just about every career offensive record for the team when he was done. He hit .238 with a homer and four RBI’s in nine post-season games.

Kranepool was a busy guy in the off-season. He got a stockbroker license and began working in that capacity when he was 20. He did that for roughly the same amount of time that he ran a restaurant with Ron Swoboda called “the Dugout” on Long Island. He was also an active speaker during those months. When he retired he moved to a company called Les Jay which was big in display advertising. A year after he retired he put together a group to try to buy his former team but lost out to the Doubleday’s. He then was a marketing rep for Pfizer for a bunch of years before he quit in the early Nineties. He had runs in different businesses on Long Island and at the time his SABR bio was written in 2008 was part of a group that handled credit card accounts for businesses. In 2011 he was again part of a group – this time with Martin Luther King III – that wanted to buy a piece of the Mets when Fred Wilpon had to do the distressed sale.

This is a pretty wild card back for a guy who was not yet 30. Ed would continue to be the only remaining original Met through ’79. He was also inducted to the team’s hall of fame earlier this century.

Ed gets hooked up to his ’69 Series opponent through the NL of course:

1. Kranepool and Rusty Staub ’72 to ’75 Mets;
2. Staub and Mike Cuellar ’65 to ’68 Astros.

Friday, June 21, 2013

#560 - Mike Cuellar

Here Mike Cuellar kicks off what would be the dominant theme in his baseball cards for the remainder of his career. From ’74 through ’77, Mike’s photo would be an action profile shot with the exception of ’76 when he would have an action shot on the mound. I like him with an afro since that hair style seemed to more embrace his character than the close-cropped look he’d had on his cards prior to this set. He had another excellent season in’73, as he did every year in Baltimore from ’69 to ’74, a period during which he averaged better than 20 wins. Pretty good for a pitcher a lot of people speculated was on the downswing when he came over from Houston after the ’68 season. But Baltimore specialized in those trades (Frank Robinson) and with all those wins Mike brought a bunch of color, some of it through his superstitions. He would always sit in the same spot in the dugout. He always had to have the same hat when he pitched. He never stepped on a baseline. He was a generally happy guy who was a locker room favorite. Mike’s whole life was baseball which worked for him while he was playing but unfortunately didn’t after he was done.

Miguel Cuellar was born in Santa Clara, Cuba, and by the time he finished high school was pitching for that country’s Army team. Those were pre-revolution days and that team was the showcase for Batista, and was one of the only ways for anyone from a poor family, like Cuellar’s, to get any recognition. In ’57 a Cincinnati scout spotted Miguel in a game and signed him. He remained in Cuba, pitching for the Havana Sugar Kings, a Triple A team, through ’60 and put up a combined record of 37-39 with a 2.86 ERA during that time. His short stint in Cincinnati during ’59 wasn’t too impressive though. In ’60 the embargo resulting from the ’58 revolution took hold and the Sugar Kings relocated to Jersey City where Miguel finished out the year. In ’61 he had a poor season – 4-11 with a 4.58 ERA – and at 24 he was either released or sold by the Reds. He spent ’62 pitching in Mexico for Monterrey where he got some of his mojo back, going 11-6 with a 3.60 ERA. In ’63 he then briefly hooked up with Detroit’s Double A team – 1-1 with a 2.54 ERA in 39 innings – before he was signed by Bobby Maduro, a Cuban exile who ran baseball teams and was a fan of Miguel’s from his Havana days. He owned the Jacksonville Suns, then a Cleveland Triple A affiliate. After going 6-7 with a 3.79 ERA to finish the season, Miguel had a super start at that level in ’64, going 6-1 with a 1.78 ERA in ten starts. By then Jacksonville had moved to the St. Louis system, and mid-season Miguel was called up to the Cards, just in time for a pennant race. His ERA was a tad fat, but he got seven starts and four saves among his 32 games though he got shut out of post-season work. He kicked off ’65 back in Jacksonville where he again had excellent numbers, going 9-1 with a 2.51 ERA. But Mike threw junk, his out pitches being a tough screwball and a palmball, and St. Louis thrived on heat. So that June he went to Houston with Ron Taylor for Chuck Taylor and Hal Woodeshick in a trade of four pitchers.

For the Astros Cuellar got immediately moved to Houston and the rest of the way he was a spot guy, getting four starts and a couple saves. His record was nothing special but he pulled his ERA down by a run. That was a good prelude to his ’66 season when he moved into the rotation, got real stingy with his home runs given up, and finished second to Sandy Koufax for the NL ERA title. Then in ’67 he made his first All-Star team with enough wins to set a Houston record and another excellent ERA. But ’68 was a bit of a bummer after a shoulder injury had him miss about a month total and his record moved back to the losing side. He still put up another great ERA but Houston was worried about an ailing shoulder on a 31-year old arm. That December they sent Miguel/ now Mike to Baltimore for former Rookie of the Year Curt Blefary. Oops.

With the Orioles Cuellar pretty much hit the ground running. His screwball especially was much more at home in the AL and particularly with the help of George Bamberger, Mike began a long run of excellent pitching. His first year he got five shutouts and split the Cy with Denny McLain. In ’70 he led the AL with his 24 wins, 40 starts, and 21 complete games. He also won the final game of the Series that year. In ’71 he was one of four O’s pitchers to win at least 20 games. Both those last two years he was again an All-Star. In ’72 he missed a couple starts due to the early-season player strike but still won 18 and put up his second-best ERA in Baltimore. In ’73 he got a little more generous in giving up hits and his ERA rose a bit but he still put up an excellent record. Then in ’74 he cut the homers in half and went 22-10 to lead the AL in percentage and get to his last All-Star game. In ’75 he actually got stingier with the hits but his ERA popped by half a run anyway and he went 14-12. Then in ’76 came serious shoulder pain, a 4-13 record, and a 4.96 ERA, all which got him released at the end of the season (no loyalty in that town!). In ’77 he signed with California but his arm was toast, later confirmed by an abbreviated comeback attempt in Mexico. Mike finished with a record of 185-130 with a 3.14 ERA, 172 complete games, 33 shutouts, and eleven saves. In the post-season he went 4-4 with a 2.85 ERA in twelve games and he went 74-66 with an ERA under 3.00 in the minors.

Inexplicably Cuellar was unable to find work in baseball after he finished playing. He never made a ton of money and he ended up taking his five handicap down to Florida where for years he basically made minimum wage doing various work on local golf courses and driving ranges. He did some voluntary spring training coaching for Baltimore but was never able to get a regular gig out of that. By the mid-2000’s he was pretty much retired and living off a monthly pension of about $3,100 with zero health insurance. Early in 2010 he suffered a brain anuerysm and later that year had his gall bladder removed. He then contracted stomach cancer from which he passed away later that year. He was 72.

Miguel has some awfully good star bullets and revives the parenthetical name. He is one of the few guys to have a lifetime ERA under 3.00 on his card in this set.

Here we hook up two former Reds who never played together and only met in the post-season:

1. Cuellar and Merv Rettenmund ’69 to ’73 Orioles;
2. Rettenmund and Darrel Chaney ’74 to ’75 Reds.

Only 100 cards to go!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

#559 - Darrel Chaney

Darrel Chaney diligently shows us a backhanded stab at a grounder at a washed-out Candlestick. This card is a significant downtick from Darrel’s ’73 one, an action shot of him sliding into a base in which his helmet is dislodged revealing perfectly groomed hair. The plan going into spring training of ’73 was that he and Dave Concepcion would continue platooning at shortstop, Dave batting against lefthanders and Darrel against righties. Concepcion had hit under .210 the prior two seasons so until that point the two were pretty much a match offensively. But then Concepcion had a breakout spring training, leading the team in average and RBI’s and so while Darrel initially got his share of starts, his average couldn’t get much above .150 while Dave’s got quite good and Concepcion got all the starts. At least he did until a July injury ended his season allowing Darrel to get his time. But he still finished with an average about 100 points lower than Dave’s and so his time left in Cincy was spent largely on the bench or in late-inning shifts. Not exactly what he had in mind when he started playing.

Darrel Chaney was all-everything while growing up in Hammond, Indiana. A star quarterback, shooting guard, and shortstop in the big three sports, he was reportedly pursued by 35 D-1 schools including a few Big Ten ones for football. But Cincinnati picked him as a second rounder in the ’66 draft and signed him for about $6,000 and off Darrel went to the world of baseball. He had a good summer defensively in A ball but hit only .206 with little power. Then ’67 was a wash because just over a month into the season up in Double A Darrel got called into the military, missing the remainder of the year. When he returned to that level in ’68 he had a much better season, leading his team with 23 homers and 78 RBI’s, but hitting only .231 with a ton of strikeouts. Still, those numbers allowed him to get a spot on the Cincinnati roster the following year. That year he swapped time at short with Woody Woodward but all he seemingly brought up from his minors numbers was the strikeout total. So in ’70 he split time three ways with Woodward and Concepcion and got nearly as many starts at second as at short. He didn’t see nearly as much action but his average picked up a bunch and he got his first post-season time work in the Series. In ’71 the Reds threw the shortstop job at Concepcion and Darrel spent most of the season in Triple A where he hit .277 with less power but also half as many K’s as he had in ’68. Woodward was gone for the ’72 season so shortstop was all Darrell and Dave for most of the year. That time, though, Darrel proved better offensively as he flirted with .300 through late July, pulled his strikeout totals down a bunch, and then got the bulk of the post-season work at shortstop.

In ’74 Chaney did the reserve thing, hitting .200 in 135 at bats, mostly backing up at third which was still in transition before it would be taken over by Pete Rose the following year. That year Darrel upped his at bats and average to 160 and .219 respectively and really pulled up his RBI’s with 26, his most in a season to date. Though he got very little action that October he did get a ring. After the season he was sent to Atlanta for Mike Lum. With the Braves in ’76 Darrel got his first uncontested starting job and he responded by hitting .252 with 50 RBI’s in his nearly 500 at bats. Unfortunately he also led the NL shortstops in errors and the Atlanta infield was porous enough without his help. So over the next few years the Braves sought a better solution at shortstop and Darrel’s at bats gradually fell. In ’77 he hit .201 in 209 at bats; in ’78 it was .224 in 245 looks; and in ’79 it was .162 in 117 at bats. After being released at the end of that season he retired. He hit .217 with 190 RBI’s up top and .086 in his 19 post-season games.

After a year off in 1980 Chaney returned to the Braves and baseball for a two-year stint as an announcer. He then left to join Prudential Realty as an officer for community relations and relocation, which he did for about 22 years. He then founded a company called Prime Retail Services and also sits on the board of Major League Marketing Association, an advocacy group for former major leaguers and their images (in video games, etc.). He is also a motivational speaker and has his own website in that capacity.

Darrel gets the defensive props in his star bullets and another bowling cartoon (I think that makes four in this set). He was a big religious guy so him hanging at the lanes with Bill Sudakis would probably have been fun.

These guys get linked by a colorful one:

1. Chaney and Willie Montanez ’76 to ’77 Braves;
2. Montanez and Bill Fahey ’80 Padres.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

#558 - Bill Fahey

Here we have Bill Fahey on a very tilted field during spring training. Bill had nary an at bat for Texas in ‘73 and at this point in his career had already had three cards for his grand total of 127 at bats. But here he is as Topps and others expected him to take an active role in the Rangers battery for ’74. It didn’t quite work out that way as Bill would spend nearly all of ’74 in the minors as well, getting leapfogged by another highly touted college catcher, Jim Sundberg. Baseball could move fast sometimes. But though Bill spent the whole season in one spot it did have its ups and downs. He put up some pretty good numbers on offense and was an excellent defender in Triple A, good enough to be named team mvp that season. At least he did through early August, when a collision at home plate resulted in his breaking five ribs and puncturing a lung. Things would go like that for a while for him and it would take a few years for him to get a regular gig. But that would be for a different team in a different league.

Bill Fahey was Michigan all the way. Born in Detroit he grew up in a suburb there and was drafted his senior year of high school by Baltimore but opted for the University of Detroit instead. He then either did or did not transfer to St. Clair Community College, also in Michigan, but for sure played baseball somewhere in ’69. He was good enough to get drafted the following January by Washington and then signed to a bonus somewhere in the range of $40,000 to $50,000, all depending on the source. His first year in A ball was not too bad offensively and quite good on defense. In ’71 he moved to Double A where he was an all-star and then got into a few games at both Triple A and in DC. He then began ’72 in Triple A where his numbers included an OBA of .386 before moving up to Arlington in late July and then getting a bunch of starts down the stretch. He did well enough behind the plate but wasn’t so hot at it. So in ’73 the Rangers basically swapped Bill and Ken Suarez and Bill spent the whole season in Triple A. In ’74 he began the season in Arlington but with Jim Sundberg and Duke Sims getting just about all the starts, Bill was back in Triple A by early May. There he was an all-star for the second straight year while hitting .259 with 39 RBI’s in his 317 at bats. By ’75 Sims was done and Bill returned to Texas as Sundberg’s back-up and did a pretty good job despite almost never playing and suffering a broken hand that kept him out of action for almost two months. In ’76 the Rangers picked up John Ellis so he and Bill doubled on the back-up work. Those three seasons combined Bill only got 185 at bats, though he did hit a respectable .249 in them. By ’78 Ellis was getting the lion’s share of the back-up work – he was better offensively – and Bill was shuttered back to Triple A where he was now the second guy in the depth chart and hit .250 in his .212 at bats. After the season he was sent to San Diego with Kurt Bevacqua and Mike Hargrove for Oscar Gamble, Dave Roberts, and a bunch of cash.

In 1977 the Padres had picked up Gene Tenace as a free agent so it seemed as if Fahey was headed for more light back-up work since Tenace still had a pretty good bat. And ’79 kicked off that way with Bill getting some spot starts and late inning work. But by early August Tenace had to take over first base and Bill would get the lion’s share of starts the rest of the season. That must have made him pretty happy, but he paid for it. In one week of August he went all the way in a ten-inning, an eleven-inning, and a 19-inning game. He did super on defense and was a big surprise offensively as he hit .316 from his starting role the duration of the season. Overall he hit .287 on the year. In ’80 he split starts with Tenace, hitting .257 in 241 at bats, his most up top. In spring training of ’81 Bill was sold to Detroit. While there he would be injured every year and reprise his back-up role behind another catcher who rarely sat, this time Lance Parrish. In his three seasons with the Tigers Bill would hit .212 in just 156 at bats, spending a bit of time in ’83 in Triple A for rehab. He spent a considerable amount of time when he returned to Detroit that year as the bullpen coach and it would be the final year of his playing career. He finished with a .241 average and 83 RBI’s in his 934 MLB at bats and hit .265 in the minors.

In 1984 Fahey was named manager of Lakeland, Detroit’s A franchise in the Florida State League. He went 46-98 in what would be his only season as a manager. In ’85 he was a coach in the Texas system and then from ’86 to ’91 a coach up top for the Giants. After that it has been tough to see what he has done professionally, though he was very active in the Dallas suburb of Duncanville where he has resided since he played for Texas. There he had two sons, one of whom, Brandon, grew up to play ball for the Orioles.

So Bill gets some good star bullets on the back. During spring training of ’71 his manager Ted Williams said Bill would be an All-Star by ’75; not exactly the way things turned out. Since I have not been able to find definitively which school he was actually in when drafted by the Nats, I have no comment on how the University of Tampa fit into everything.

This one I wasn’t expecting, but here goes:

1. Fahey and Don Mincher ’71 to ’72 Senators/Rangers;
2. Mincher and Jim McGlothlin ’67 to ’68 Angels.

Don Mincher was a slugging first baseman from the Sixties to the early Seventies who won a pennant with the ’65 Twins, got props from Jim Bouton in “Ball Four”, and finished his career up in ’72 as a pinch hitter for Oakland, finally winning a Series.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

#557 - Jim McGlothlin

This is the second final card of a player in a row and that hasn’t happened in this set for a long time. Jim McGlothlin had to be a very recent arrival in Chicago when this photo was taken as he wasn’t traded there until the end of August. He wouldn’t pitch terribly much once he got there, throwing 18 mostly relief innings in September. He would not make it out of spring training in ’74 with Chicago so this card contains all his MLB stats and by the time of the card’s issuance he would be done as a player. But the true tragedy for Jim was that about a year later when he was in Florida visiting various spring training sites he got sick and quickly shed about 45 pounds. The initial diagnosis was stomach cancer and Jim, who became a full-time farmer in Kentucky once his career ended, did not have any health insurance. So to help him out his former teammates on the Reds held various fund raisers for his medical expenses. I was never a fan of those guys back then but that was an awfully sweet thing to do. Jim had a brief recovery but later in the year he would get sick again – leukemia was finally diagnosed – and just before Christmas of ’75 he would pass away. Pretty sad stuff.

Jim McGlothlin was born and raised in a suburb of Los Angeles and was a pitcher of enough renown at Reseda High School that a local paper called him invincible his senior year. He was signed by the Angels after a summer tournament and began his career in ’62 in D ball where he went 13-5 with a 2.79 ERA and lots of heat, striking out 165 in 129 innings. In ’63 he began the season in Triple A where he went 5-6 in 15 games. But his ERA got fat and the second half of the season he moved to Double A where his numbers actually got worse. He spent all of ’64 at the higher level in Hawaii where he went 5-10 as a starter while knocking a run off his ERA to 4.33. In ’65 he had a big season in Seattle, the new California Triple A spot, going 14-8 with a 2.55 ERA, before moving up top in mid-September. He lost all three of his starts for California but pitched pretty well. In ’66 he made the Angels roster in camp and spent the first couple months as a spot guy, throwing pretty well until a couple sloppy games in late June that got him returned to Seattle where he again put up over a K an inning and went 3-3 with a 4.34 ERA in his twelve games.

In ’67 McGlothlin again made the California roster in camp, this time as a member of the rotation. He was having an excellent season and from late May through late July his ERA never topped 2.00. He’d been hit in the hand by a comebacker in late May but shortly thereafter threw three straight shutouts. By late July he was 9-2 with a 1.76 ERA and a ticket to the All-Star game in which he threw two shutout innings. But in a game earlier that month he was nailed in the eye by a liner and the rest of the way went only 6-8 with an ERA of nearly 5.00. But the whole season was quite good and he finished leading the AL with his six shutouts. In ’68 and ’69 he was a victim of the team’s anemic hitting and during that time went a combined 18-31 though his ERA was roughly on par with the rest of the league. In November of ’69 he was sent to Cincinnati with Pedro Borbon for Alex Johnson and Chico Ruiz.

True to form, McGlothlin’s first season in Cincinnati was a streaky one.  By early July he was 11-4 with a 2.79 ERA. Then his knee took a shot off of – of course - a comebacker and the rest of the season he was 3-6 with a 4.85 ERA. He got his first Series action in a start that October. In ’71 he missed a couple starts with an eye infection and despite an improved ERA, like the rest of the team he had a tough time matching his ’70 numbers. In ’72 he put in a bit more pen time and most of the season fought a high ERA though he was able to finish with a winning record and some more post-season work. But in ’73 his control went south in a big way and splitting time between the rotation and the pen he was never able to get a good rhythm. He was sent to Chicago for Steve Kealey and pitched his final ball that season. Away from the stats on his card he recorded 36 complete games, eleven shutouts, and three saves (all in ’68). In his three post-season games he had no decisions with an 8.64 ERA in eight-plus innings. He’d gone 41-36 with a 3.61 ERA in the minors.

Jim had a perfect fielding average in ’70, something he also pulled off in ’73. One of his nicknames was “Red”, appropriate for the face of his last card because that color is everywhere on it.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using Mr. Kirby again, another pitcher who passed away at a young age:

1. McGlothlin and Pete Rose – one of the fund-raising leaders when Jim was ill – ’70 to ’73 Reds;
2. Rose and Clay Kirby ’74 to ’75 Reds;
3. Kirby and Dave Campbell ’70 to ’73 Padres.

Monday, June 17, 2013

#556 - Dave Campbell

Dave Campbell’s final card has him doing the on deck thing at Candlestick. Topps covers nearly all the bases with Dave’s positions here, giving the “infield” abbreviation a period but not the “outfield” one one. By this point in his career Dave’s hamstring issues had pretty much immobilized him but he was able to gut himself back into the San Diego starting line-up at second in late April and by mid-May was hitting .333. But then things went south pretty quickly and he left the Padres on an 0 for 15 run that became an 0 for 36 run when he then went to Houston, and reached 0 for 43 before he had his first hit in his eighth game for the Astros. But while still with San Diego Dave had already begun sowing the seeds for his next career, which not too unlike his playing one started a bit rockily. But in that one he’d engineer a much longer run.

Dave Campbell was born in Michigan where he grew up playing ball and continued to do so when he went to the University of Michigan. His sophomore year of ’62 he helped take the Wolverines to the CWS title, pretty impressive given the school only played about a third of the games of most their tournament competition. Despite being offered contracts by the Braves and the Red Sox he remained in school through his ’64 graduation, earning a degree in education. Then, signed finally by his home-state Tigers, he killed his few games in A ball, hitting .369 with 13 RBI’s in his 65 at bats. He cooled off a ton to hit .209 the rest of the way in Double A. At both levels he played mostly shortstop and first as he had in college. In ’65 he improved to .310 in Double A the first third of the season and then hit .247 the rest of the way in Triple A, that year adding some outfield starts to his portfolio. A weak start in Triple A in ’66 had him back to Double A a third of the way through the season where he hit .228 in the first year in which most of his starts were at second. In ’67 he stuck at the higher level where he hit .246 but with 20 homers from the top of the order. He made his Detroit debut late that year. In ’68 back at Triple A he upped his offensive numbers to .265 with 26 homers and 64 RBI’s (vs. 36 the prior year) in 130 less at bats, partly due to a case of mono. Up top he recorded his first hit in an August game which was a home run. In ’69 he made the Detroit roster out of camp but got very little action, putting up a pretty miserable average in his few at bats. He did hit during his couple send downs to Triple A putting up a .427 average in a bit over 100 at bats. After the season he was sent to San Diego with Pat Dobson for Joe Niekro.

Campbell was named the Padres’ second baseman shortly after the trade was announced. He would have a good season defensively, leading NL second basemen in putouts and assists. He began the season hitting well enough, but a big mid-year slump pulled down his average, though his 28 doubles, twelve homers, and 18 stolen bases – which led the team – were hopeful. In ’71 Dave got some competition in training camp from new guys Don Mason and Garry Jestadt and so when regular third baseman Ed Spiezio got hurt in training camp, Dave got the opening day start at that position. He would grab a bunch more starts there but when Spiezio returned Mason had pretty much established himself at second and Dave would end up splitting starts with him for most of the balance of the season. He had another mid-year slump which pulled down his average and his power didn’t match his ’70 numbers, which was too bad since Mason wasn’t exactly a stellar guy on offense (though he did strike out a lot less). In early September Dave’s season ended with his first heel operation. In ’72 the initial plan was to have Jestadt start at third – he’d hit .291 for San Diego in ’71 – and new guy Derrell Thomas at second, making Dave an infield reserve. But Dave had a better spring training than Garry and fielded a touch better at third and started 30 of the first 33 games of the ‘72 season at that position. He was hitting as high as .280 in mid-May but his Achilles continued to bother him as his power numbers continued to tank. By early June he required another operation and his season ended then. In ’73 he assumed a utility role with much missed time and the two trades – to the Cards for Dwain Anderson and then to Houston for Tommie Agee – landed him with the Astros. In ’74 he again got very little field time as an infield back-up for Houston and after that season he retired finishing with a .213 average. In the minors he hit .267.

Campbell had been able to do some color work for the Padres while he was laid up following his surgery in ’72. Most of his away time from baseball had been substitute teaching but the broadcasting bug got him and after he finished playing he returned to San Diego where he did various support work for local stations and got occasional sportscasting work. In ’77 he returned to the Padres organization to manage its Double A affiliate in Amarillo, going 56-74. In ’78 he was able to move into the San Diego broadcasting booth where he became very popular, initially being teamed with Jerry Coleman. Unexpectedly fired following the ’88 season – one article called it the worst trade in Padres history – he did some talk radio work and called baseball and football games for San Diego State. In ’90 he moved to ESPN where he did mostly radio through 2010. From ’93 to ’98 he was also an announcer for the Rockies. Since then he has done mostly voice work for baseball video games.

Dave gets an extra capital letter in that signature of his. This is the second card in a row in which he gets the pianist tag. His star bullets are expectedly all about defense.

Thse guys are both former Tigers, but the NL gets them together:

1. Campball and Clay Kirby ’70 to ’73 Padres;
2. Kirby and Woodie Fryman ’76 Expos.

Friday, June 14, 2013

#555 - Woodie Fryman

Now this is Comiskey Park. See, artificial turf and that circle on the scoreboard that will one day be a Coke sign. Woodie Fryman looks like he’s ready for battle in a wrestling pose. He should be: his ’73 season bore too much resemblance to the first half of his ’72 one and not enough to the second half. Woody was the AL version down the stretch of that ’72 season of what Fred Norman was for the Reds in ’73 (did every year have one of those back then?). Acquired on August 2nd of that year – on waivers no less – all Woodie did was go 10-3 in his 14 starts the rest of the way with a 2.06 ERA to lead the Tigers to the East Division title. He then had some hard luck in the playoffs – 0-2 with a 3.65 ERA in his two starts – but still had enough panache a year later to get a “5” card in this set. But ’73 was no follow-up. With a fast-declining team behind him and way too many homers given up – 23 in his 170 innings – Woodie reversed his Detroit record by 14 decisions and saw his ERA skyrocket. ’74 would be a bit of an uptick but things would go right when he got back to his old league in a couple years. Woodie is 33 in this photo. Sam McDowell was about 30 in his. Woodie looks about ten years younger than McDowell. Life on the farm had its benefits.

Woodie Fryman has such an old-timey baseball origin that it seems his career should have begun 50 or 60 years before it did. A lifetime resident of Kentucky, he was born in Ewing and played some ball in school until he was around 13. Expecting to be a farmer as his dad was, he dropped out of school so that he could work full-time on a farm given him and his older brother by their dad. He did play ball on weekends, mostly as a shortstop, and by the time he was a young man in the mid-Fifties had joined a local semi-pro team called the Flemingsburg Aces, for whom he became a pitcher of some local renown. He would regularly win over 20 games a year against just a couple losses and in one game supposedly struck out 32 guys in 15 innings. He got visited by a few teams around 1960 but the salaries and bonuses he was offered were less than he was making on his farm. But in ’65 a government subsidy on tobacco products ended and with the prospect of potentially lower farm income, Woodie got a local tryout with the Pirates. He was not offered much money but when his dad promised him he would come back to his allotted acreage, Woodie figured he had nothing to lose and signed. To make the signing more palatable to management the scout who signed him moved his birthdate forward a few years so the new kid was 22, though he was actually already 25. But once he got started Woodie worked fast. He went 3-1 with a 1.50 ERA his first six games in A ball and was then called up to pitch a mid-season exhibition game against Cleveland in which he pitched three innings of shutout ball with five K’s. He returned to the minors, this time to Triple A, where he went 0-3 in six starts but put on less than a runner an inning and had a 3.71 ERA. It was his final stint in the minors.

Fryman finished the ’65 season in Pittsburgh and though he didn’t get into a game, he did learn a pickoff move and a change-up from coach Clyde King. He then began his rookie year of ’66 in the pen and from there didn’t give up a run until his seventh game. Shortly thereafter he threw a complete game win in his first start and by the All-Star break he was 8-3 with a 2.30 ERA and three straight shutouts, including a one-hitter against the Mets. He cooled off the balance of that season but his numbers were still good enough to make the Topps Rookie team that year. ’67 would nearly be the prior year in reverse as Woodie was only 0-3 with a 6.75 ERA by the break after missing a month with an injured arm. But he improved the second half to go 3-5 with a 2.85 ERA. After the season he and three minor leaguers – one being Don Money – were sent to the Phillies for pitcher Jim Bunning. Woodie’s first season in Philadelphia was another streaky one as by mid-June he was 10-5 with a 1.61 ERA to nab an All-Star nod but was only 2-9 thereafter. In ’69 his ERA rose a ton as his record moved to the losing side and a decent bounce in ’70 was arrested by an elbow injury that made him miss all of August and pitch sparingly after that. In ’71 he spit time between the rotation and the pen, recording a couple saves. His nasty start in ’72 led to a trade and another bipolar season when he revived in a big way for Detroit. ’74 would be a tad better than ’73 as he went 6-9 with a 4.32 ERA in less innings. After that season he returned to the NL, going to Montreal for pitcher Tom Walker and catcher Terry Humphrey.

As in the second half of ’72, the movement of Fryman to another league initially went quite well. Back in the rotation for the most part, Woodie went a combined 22-25 with a 3.35 ERA and five saves for a team that was 133-191 during that stretch. In ’76 he was named to his second All-Star game. That following winter Cincinnati was worried that their 34-year old first baseman, Tony Perez, was getting too old so they packed him and reliever Will McEnany off to Montreal for reliever Dale Murray and Woodie, age 37. While initially things with the Reds seemed fine – Woodie had a 2.25 ERA in spring training and was named Opening Day starter – he soon had a falling-out with Sparky Anderson and after going 5-5 with a fat ERA the first three months he retired in early July to his farm. Coaxed back to baseball with the promise of a trade, after the season he went to the Cubs with the ever-itinerant Bill Caudill for Bill Bonham. While Chicago wasn’t exactly a fix – 2-4 with a 5.31 ERA in nine starts – a June trade back to Montreal for outfielder Jerry White got things going. He finished the year 5-7 with a 3.61 ERA in the rotation and from then on it was all relief. From ’79 to ’82 Woodie got to pitch for his first consistent winner and went a combined 24-17 with a 2.79 ERA and 46 saves, the bulk of that time in his Forties. He got some more post-season time and went 9-4 with 12 saves in ’82. But in his first game of ’83 Woodie’s shoulder snapped and after a couple bad attempts to pitch later that season he was done. He finished with a record of 141-155 with a 3.77 ERA, 68 complete games, 27 shutouts, and 58 saves. In the post-season he was 0-2 with a 6.14 ERA in four games.

Not terribly surprisingly Fryman returned to the farming life in Kentucky upon his retirement. He continued doing that through his mid-Sixties when Alzheimer’s hit him and he had to slow down a bit. He passed away from a heart ailment in 2011 at age 70.

Topps gets pretty current with Woodie’s star bullets. There’s another farm reference in the cartoon. He also raised corn and soybeans as well as tobacco. Interestingly he never smoked or did chaw.

Woodie’s travels help a bit here:

1. Fryman and Gary Sutherland ’68 Phillies and ’74 Tigers;
2. Sutherland and Tim Johnson ’76 Brewers.